Show review: Jar-e at Stella Blue

This is my assessment of local vocalist and keyboard player Jar-e: He takes the best of what ‘60s-era soul gave to music as we know it (emotion, groove, horns) and adds all these modern touches (hip-hop, Latin, world beat). But listening to his recent Stella Blues show (Friday, Oct. 5) wasn’t like witnessing yet another experiment in genre-fusing. Instead, there’s a sense that this thing has come full circle; that Jar-e’s sound is the culmination of the musical melting pot.

Honestly, I was having a hard time being objective. Some bands evoke the critic in all of us. Jar-e just doesn’t do that for me. “Like his influences that stretch from Manu Chao and Joao Gilberto to Motown greats like Stevie Wonder, Jar-e finds places where lines blur and music is born fresh beyond cliche,” says the artist’s Sonic Bids Electronic Press Kit. I’m good with that. But really, I don’t even care if Jar-e has done his homework (as a press quote from Xpress in the same EPK claims he has). I don’t care whether not he’s plumbed the depths of Motown or vintage Bossa Nova, carving from each ancestral genre a perfect seed from which to cultivate his well rounded sound garden. What I really want in any show — more than the opportunity to wax philosophical about the archaic roots of modern music — is to be entertained and transported to some place at least incrementally more fun than my daily life.

The Stella Blue show was that, absolutely. Jar-e’s stage show is captivating. He wields his voice like a weapon, starting in slow and rather unassuming but quickly escalating into a barely controlled wail, flirting emotively with pitch and not bothering with suave containment or other niceties. That’s a good thing. There are plenty of technically good voices out there, but the memorable vocalists are the Rod Stewarts, Van Morrisons and Willie Mae Thorntons who let it all hang out.

A nice bonus to the evening was that Stephanie Morgan hopped on stage to sing back up on a few songs and lend her own powerful vocals to a jammed-out version of Sade‘s “By Your Side.”

If you missed the Stella Blue show, catch Jar-e’s upcoming performances: Thursday, Nov. 8, at Emerald Lounge (with Angi West), Saturday, Dec. 1, at Westville Pub (with Brian Grosz and Saint Bernadette) and Thursday, Dec. 15, at Bobo Gallery (with Seth Kauffman).

—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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4 thoughts on “Show review: Jar-e at Stella Blue

  1. Alli Marshall

    Yes, he plays with some combination of bassist Dave Mack, guitarist Matt Smith, percussionist Ian Cunningham, saxophonist Matt Fagen, trimpet player Simon Goldberg and other local musicians who jump on stage.

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